Mentors Share Choral Counsel III

“After my wonderful elementary music experiences, and wonderful experiences with my middle and high school directors, I knew music and singing was what I was meant to do.” — James Reddan, January 2010 Chorus Mentor.

What three things have been the most challenging for you to deal with during your time as a choral director/teacher?

  • Frequent changes in administrators at different schools.
  • Advocating for the importance of music and singing, now more than ever.
  • Learning to balance the life of teacher, accountant, travel planner, and all of the other hats that we wear!What three things have been the best about being a choral director?
  • Seeing that “ah ha!” moment, when a student’s eyes light up and the light switch turns on.
  • Watching students from throughout my teaching career go on to love music, some now pursuing it in college for their own careers.
  • Being able to be a positive influence on my students and watching them continuously succeed.What three bits of advice would you give new choral directors/teachers?
  • Try something new. If it works for you and your students, it’s always worth giving a try.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help when necessary. Ask colleagues in your district, in other districts, or here on the MENC forum.  If you are asking the question, then someone else probably would like to know the answer too. Everyone has different experiences and this is a great resource to draw from.
  • Laugh at yourself and have fun. If your students see you having fun, then they most likely will too.What advice would you give music teachers who have not trained as a vocal educator who have to teach chorus?
    Go to workshops! Ask questions! Attend conventions! Don’t be scared to ask for help, and know your resources. Bring in people to help and work with your students. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. Good music is good music, regardless of the instrument.

    Do you refer students to private voice teachers if students ask you for a referral?
    Yes, but I also try and know something about the teachers before I refer them. At college, I refer them to faculty first. However, when teaching high school and middle school, it’s good to know how the private teachers teach and also get recommendations from students and other colleagues in the area.

    Have you ever had conflict with administration re: referring kids to outside teachers?
    I have never insisted students take voice lessons, but students who are interested I have highly encouraged to pursue their interest. I have never had a conflict with administration referring kids to voice teachers.

    Do you give voice lessons?

    I do give voice lessons and have given them at all levels of my teaching career. I usually gave lessons to prepare students for solo and ensemble and scholarship auditions, and I gave the lessons at school, before or after school. Because what I was doing was school related, there was no problem with this arrangement.

    What inspired you to focus on chorus and choose it as your specialty?
    My elementary school music teacher, Mrs. Geason. She lit the musical spark for me from playing Orff instruments to joining choir. When I auditioned for the choir in 4th grade (the earliest we could participate) and got it, that was everything to me.

    –Sue Rarus, December 2, 2009, © National Association for Music Education